I first started learning about the not so great side of plastic around the same time I was getting into minimalism.
I see both of them as a spectrum that you fall within.
And while there have been a few big changes I’ve made in regards to the waste I create, there are still a few areas that I can/need to still improve in.
So, today I wanted to go through how I’ve been excelling at creating less waste, and then cover a few spots I’m not doing so hot at.
And because I’m a positive person I will start with the changes I’ve made that have helped me create less waste.
+ Using reusable bags instead of plastic bags when shopping
This was one of the first and easiest switches I made. I have a few totes/reusable shopping bags I’ve acquired, as well as a few I made myself from old t-shirts.
And while I remember to bring them along 98% of the time, there is still the shopping trip every few months where I forget them. Instead of getting plastic bags, or even paper bags I just ask them to put the groceries back in my shopping cart once they’ve rung them up. I then just walk the shopping cart out to my car (which I normally do anyways) and put my groceries straight into there.
+ Sending my food scraps to my mom’s to compost
If you take a look at what the vast majority of your trash can consists of it is food scraps.
I played with the idea of creating a in-apartment compost system for a long time, but couldn’t figure out what I would do with the compost once it was done.
My conclusion was that I needed to find a place where I could send my scraps to get composted. I did a little research to see if there was anything convenient and easy around town, but eventually just settled on asking my mom if she could take it.
Which, as mom’s do, she gladly accepted. But eventually sent me home with an old kitty litter tub to collect my scraps in so they didn’t leak in her car as she transported them home.
I took the time to see what was accepted as recycling here in Des Moines, got a little recycling bin (and eventually a bigger one as a wedding gift), and started recycling.
It was easy even though I always let it collect in the big bin in my hallway closet a bit too long.
And I discovered that a local grocery store recycled plastic bags for those few suckers that made it into our house.
There are some items that could just be thrown away or recycled. But I try to get as much use out of them as possible before sending them on their way.
Glass jars, while I have too many of them, in various sizes, I love using them as food storage containers.
And because I’m not completely zero waste I still create some garbage (a lot less than before, but still some) and repurpose those few plastic bags that still get into my house as garbage bags instead of buying new ones for my bathroom garbage.
+ Buying second hand
I’ve done this for awhile, mostly because it was just better for my financially, but once I learned more about fast fashion and how wasteful the retail industry is, I have made more of an effort to find what I need second hand first.
This doesn’t just mean clothing either. I recently made my desk out of one I found on Craigslist and found my desk chair at the thrift store.
+ Overall being more conscious of what I’m buying
I think this journey as well as minimalism combined has really changed my mindset on buying stuff.
I put more time and thought into stuff before buying.
Do I really need it? Will it be something that I can use/wear for years and years to come?
And one trick that helps me with this is keeping a Want List on my computer, and as things come to mind that I want to buy I put them there instead of impulse purchasing them. This has helped me realize what I really do want/need and gives me time to find the perfect item that I will love forever.
Ok, now that we’ve got all those done, let’s touch on a few places where I’m not doing so great at this whole zero waste lifestyle and how I can/will improve.
+ Buying groceries that come packaged
Unfortunately the store I buy in bulk at packages a lot of their items in plastic. When I first started in on this switch I was getting everything from just one store and not buying anything packaged (even bread).
And I should get back to this, even though it ended up costing more money.
+ Forgetting my reusable coffee cup
I have a handy little stainless steel coffee cup, but I don’t always remember it.
I need to get a lid for it, and then just put it in my bag before I head out anywhere.
The same goes with bringing along a mason jar for those spur of the moment smoothie trips.
+ Making the switch to bamboo, compostable toothbrushes
This one is an easy one that I literally just have not gotten around to.
And it also requires me to remember to say no to the little goodie bag they give you at the dentist.
+ Continuing to switch out packaged beauty products for unpackaged products
I actually have quite a bit of gift card money to Lush that will be perfect for this switch.
My skin went through a bit of a difficult time this past winter and I caved when I discovered the whole Korean 10-step skincare routine. I didn’t go as far as to get one use masks, but I did get a nice toner and essence, which did wonders for my skin.
But now that my skin is back in order I have been able to simplify my skincare again.
+ I need to buy bamboo utensils and to-go containers
This is the final area that comes to mind when I think of where I’m failing.
While I normally just throw in a fork/spoon from my drawer I would much rather have a designated set of bamboo utensils that are easier to travel with then actual silverware.
And figuring out how to order take-out and use my own containers. I know people might be confused, but I think just asking nicely can get you a lot of things.
I want some to-go containers that aren’t my glass tupperware I use at home. I’m always worried about this getting broken.
And there you have it.
Not all my triumphs and failures, but what I could think of today.
Where do you excel/flop when it comes to zero waste? And what advice do you have for others wanting to lead a less wasteful lifestyle?